The Helpful Guide to Living an Intentional Life


“The quality of your commitments will determine the course of your life.” – Ralph Marston

Recently, I spoke to a room full of high school students on the topic of “Don’t Waste Your Life.” Among the advice that I gave them, I offered this nugget of truth: “Don’t just drift through life. Live intentionally and on purpose.” I believe that is one of the most important lessons that a person can learn—and the sooner we get it, the better.

Living a simple life certainly requires intentionality. In a world that is hectic, busy, and hurried, simplicity is not. In a culture that encourages selfishness and excess, minimalism does not. And in a society that is rushing to gain more, satisfaction with less is counter-cultural.

To live an intentional life, we must begin by laying a proper foundation and then add practical steps on top of it.

First, Lay the Foundation.

  • Realize that your life is made up of choices. Every morning is a new day full of decisions and opportunity. You get to pick your attitude and your decisions. You don’t have to let the circumstances of your past negatively determine the pattern of your life in the future. You have a choice in the matter. You do not need to be stuck in the same pattern of living that you have been for years… realize that every morning is a new opportunity.
  • Evaluate the culture that you’re swimming in. Life is not lived in a vacuum. It is lived surrounded by a culture that is moving somewhere. This culture around us forms a swift downstream current. Living an intentional life will require you to take a step back and evaluate the flow of the stream to determine where it is headed, how it is affecting you, and if it is taking you in a direction you desire.
  • Examine yourself. Know who you are. Get a strong handle on your passions, talents, abilities, and weaknesses. Give precious time and energy to this endeavor. It is one of the most valuable things you can do.

Second, Add Practical Steps.

  • Decide to live your life. Stop comparing yourself to others. You were not born to live their life. There is no sense wasting yours being jealous of theirs. Instead, you were born to live your life – determine today to be good at it. After all, you only get one shot.
  • Define a purpose. Identify what you want your life to communicate and contribute. Find a passion to live for that is bigger than yourself. Write it down. It will bring new meaning to your life. It will wake you from the slow death of only living for yourself.
  • Set goals. Goals move us and goals shape us. Set goals that are directly in line with your defined purpose. By their very nature, they will introduce intentionality into your life.
  • Stay focused. We live in a world of constant connectivity and distraction that is begging for our attention nearly every moment of the day. Learn to turn off the distraction and live your life instead. Turn off the tv and don’t read gossip magazines. Remove nonessential physical belongings that are robbing you of time and energy that could be better spent living intentionally.
  • Learn from others. Successful people are curious people. They possess the humility to learn from others. Identify people accomplishing your purpose and goals. Then, study them and learn from them.

The worst thing you could ever waste is your life. Instead, commit yourself to live intentionally and on purpose.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    Great post. The only thing that I would add is that we need to realize that we don’t need to figure out our entire life’s direction in the beginning. This was the mistake that I made when I was younger, and it held me back. I didn’t fully commit to my intentions because I was afraid of making the wrong choice.

    The reality is that we can always change our path somewhere down the road. This takes a lot of the pressure off. We can decide on a particular intention and live by it, and then we can change if it isn’t quite right. Odds are that your intentions will evolve over time anyway. I know that my intentions have changed pretty dramatically over the last few years as I have clarified what I really want, and now I’m really going for it. It’s pretty exciting.

  2. says

    To “Decide to live your life” I would add, “for yourself”. So many people I know seem to live for others: dressing/acting/buying things in order to impress. Neither their physical appearance nor their possessions will truly impress someone, but only their actions and who they really are.

  3. says

    I totally agree and live by these sentiments. It takes years sometimes to build up this mindfulness to a degree where you can live it daily.

    Changing thoughts is powerful I have learnt.

    Thanks for sharing.


  4. says

    Another great post – thank you. My favorite piece of advice you’ve given here is the “Decide to live your life” paragraph – what a terrific reminder.

  5. Carlos says

    A quienes tengan dudas o lo califiquen de difícil, una experiencia por si les es de utilidad: mira en tu interior en busca de tu seguridad.

    Y para quienes deseen leer un texto que se alinea con este post: la letra de la canción “Antes de que cuente diez” de Fito&Fittipaldis, pura poesía

    Gracias a todos los que, a diario, regalais aire fresco a través de esta ventana tecnológica.

  6. says

    This is a concept I wish I would have grasped when I was much younger! I wonder how different life would have been. Not that it is bad now, but I see how intentional living instead of drifting would have helped avoid some junk :) All the more reason to teach this to our kids!

  7. says

    Awesome post. It’s never too late to improve and make changes (I’m 52), so I’m making the decisions needed to simplify and live with defined intentions.

  8. says

    It is interesting that I stumbled across this post just when I was about to draft my “3 months” plan!

    Every 3 months I site down and intentionally decide exactly want to achieve in every sphere of my life in the next 3 months. I also look at what I have achieved in the past 3 months. Today is my D day. :) I will examine myself, define my purpose and even set goals. :)

    Thank you for the synchronous post!

    • Anna says

      That sounds really interesting! I love that idea. Could you give me a few practical examples? Like what exactly do you write down? Thanks :)

  9. says

    Living simply is definitely my goal if not my intention. It is amazing how easy it is to float through your life and wake up one day, wondering where it all went. I believe setting goals are key as well as checking in regularly to make sure you are staying on track or redefining your goals. Unfortunately goal setting has been a weekness of mine. I see where that has hindered me and I intend to rectify that beginning today. Thank you for this post.


  10. Lesley says

    I wish I had known this earlier in my life and been surrounded by people aware of this. I have drifted because I worked myself into nervous exhaustion and compared myself thereafter as not being successful. Ruined health through self-doubt and not through following what I enjoy and value and being afraid to fail. I turn 50 soon and want to be in the presence of others who live intentionally to reinforce my commitment to this.

  11. Freddy Panes says

    to live with a purpose is what we should do. a lot of people are like zombies > they just go with the flow. it is really sad

  12. says

    I really like this article you have written. Sometimes I feel lost trying to figure out what exactly suits my family. Everything I want seems to be counter cultural, and it creates so much conflict. It’s the conflict I want to remove! It’s hard to move in these directions sometimes when even your family will resist, because they just don’t know any better. Busy and hurried is just what everything is and what they see everywhere. I just keep saying to myself God calls us to be different. To stand out. When I attempt to make the changes I know our family needs to make to achieve a greater peace…I’m always reminded of the call of Christians to be different, and different will often cause conflict for us. But I hope my decisions to reduce and live a certain way are pleasing to God in the end. But it’s hard!

  13. Marg says

    I like the idea of evaluating the culture and where it is taking you. I have started this process and if I had started earlier I would have saved myself some grief.

  14. says

    A friend in the U.S. directed me to this site. I don’t agree with all aspects of these minhimalist/intentional guidelines, although I fully endorse a minimalist life, piggy-backed internet connection notwithstanding. I rarely ever discuss prudence of economy, since Thoreau articulated all that needs to be said about it, so the following comments represent a departure for me.
    To begin with, I’m convinced you can drift along quite well in the mainstream and be fully intentional about it. You might be swept inadvertently into an eddy, joining a minimalist current that moves in the opposite direction. But this is frequently an accidental rather than intentional deviation. Often, a change of circumstances or a twist of fate or an unexpected challenge accounts for minimalist living. Sometimes the living part is apparent long before any conscious aspect of it is manifested, before you become aware that a frugality born of necessity has taken hold, gradually constituting a natural and comfortable expression of living.
    Even into late middle age, I never defined or sought any particular purpose, and I still don’t. Most goals were linked to immediate and habitual tasks, which satisfied me well enough. And there were long-range strategies I adhered to. I was focused when I chose to be. I did benefit from the input and expertise of others. But identifying those who can help you accomplish certain goals can be tricky. This is because aspirations and ideals can be as capricious as the people who concoct them.
    It is somewhat presumptuous and precipitous to count on the strength, quality and longevity of youthful commitments. Sometimes these early commitments pan out, sometimes they don’t. I suppose the purpose of suggesting commitments is to encourage the habit of making them.
    Likewise, I wouldn’t assume that ‘successful’ people are necessarily curious; they are typically focused, a singular purpose harnassed by enthusiasm — perhaps some intellectual or physical leverage accounting for it. Successful types are typically ambitious and highly competitive, too. But I wouldn’t necessarily qualify them as inordinately curious. That’s not the principal qualifier.
    When I was much younger, I met a number of people seeking a lifestyle that would fulfill them, some espousing the doctrine of less-is-more. They whole-heartedly embraced the process of fulfillment, but their objective remained elusive. A convenient strength lay in consorting with others who shared the same objective, but this advantage worked against them in the long run.
    Being intentional about something doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll achieve your objective. Getting sucked into the eddy really has little to do with guidelines or even intent. Sometimes it comes down to an accident of fortune, perhaps initiated by either misfortune or great good luck.

    • virginia says

      Thank you for taking the time to post. Your message was insightful but it was your prose that I enjoyed more. It is a rare thing these days to see such beautiful verbiage!

  15. Ayyappannair says

    Its very helpful..but i dont know how to start following this…could anyone here to help me?i hope you people undrstands this.. And thank you mark

  16. Audrey says

    Thank you Joshua for all your posts. I always look forward to reading them daily on FB. I’m working on minimizing my possessions. It’s not easy but I am enjoying the process.
    I love this post!! The first point speaks to me so clearly and is one I’ve felt strongly about for years: “Realize that your life is made up of choices”. It seems that so many people don’t understand this. I run across people who aren’t happy at their job and I want to “scream” (well, maybe not that extreme) at them to do something else. They don’t have to stay where they are and make themselves and others around them, miserable. Kind regards – Audrey

  17. says

    Thank you for sharing. I started out this year of my life vowing to be intentional with my life, before I was just drifting waiting for things to happen and waiting for “signs”. Now, I’m working and moving and living…well trying the best I can for now. But it’s good to have guidance and practical advice along the way. Thanks!

  18. Kevin Spatt says

    Josh – I think I met you at MVC in Scottsdale a couple of years ago. I decided in April to drop a destructive habit and today the thought ‘Intentional Living’ crossed my path. I hadn’t thought about it but I realized that that is what I am doing now. And it is a beautiful thing. Thank you. Jesus is showing me how to be a Christian and a rebel at the same time. Very cool stuff……

  19. says

    Thank you for your website and Facebook post! It has helped me turn my life around. Instead of getting up every morning and feeling overwhelmed with all the ‘stuff’ I have to clean, I have decided to follow your advise and start cleansing my home. It is an amazing feeling, not to mention my outlook is so much happier and less cluttered and confused!

    I’ve cleaned out the basement this week, next week it is the inside out h my home, one room at a time. I think the secret is don’t try to do it all at once, take your time and listen to your body and mind when you start getting to the point where you can’t let go, it’s time to take a break and start over another day!

    Please keep up the advice and words of wisdom, qui try and share the ones that hit home for my friends on fb. I’ve had a lot of great feedback from others, going to do the same!

    You are truly a blessing, my prayers and support is with you!
    Thank you again!

Sites That Link to this Post

  1. Gratitude. It Matters. | November 22, 2012
  2. Intentional Living | Free Wishes | September 2, 2014
  3. The Whole Life Blogalog | October 17, 2014

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